Best process/app/setup for document review (attachments)

Hi all,
I’m looking for ideas on how to speed up a particular process concerning attachments.

In this case it’s a trucking company who handles a lot of incoming actual papers which get scanned and then added to the relevant record.
One record has usually 4 main attachment fields, each holding mostly 1-3 pdfs with 1-3 pages, and one mostly 1-2 pdfs with 10-30 pages.

Then an invoice is created but we need an approval process somewhere built in before the actual invoice gets sent because too often there are vital documents missing and without those they can’t invoice.

There’s a temp worker who comes in and prepares everything. I have set up the whole process to be easily done by anyone with minimal training. All working well, except that temp doesn’t have enough domain knowledge to judge whether all necessary papers are there.

We decided to add an approval step. The issue is, that loading attachments in Airtable has become incredibly slow, not to mention if it’s more than one field it’s a nuisance having to get out of it go to the next one or even within one attachment field moving from one pdf to the next.

So my question is:
Do you have any suggestions on a speedier way to look at attachment pdfs

I don’t mind going 3rd party if I have to. The process currently is so slow, it drives me mad. And in fact currently the process is done via looking at the physical papers instead because doing it in Airtable is just too annoyingly slow.

Any ideas?

I haven’t noticed any slow loading of PDFs of my end.

I also just tested this right now on my end. I have an attachment field that has 7 large PDF files in it, and each PDF is more than 50 pages long. I clicked on one of the PDFs which is 52 pages long and it appeared instantly on my screen. All 52 pages.

My guess is that maybe your PDF files are an extremely large file size, like perhaps hundreds of MBs per PDF file? If so, maybe see if you can optimize the size of your files.

Otherwise, yes, you could just use any cloud storage service like Google Drive or Cloudinary or Dropbox, and then just store the links in Airtable.

You could even automate the entire process of getting the links into Airtable by using one of Make’s 1,600 native integrations for Airtable.

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Thanks Scott for your reply!

I made you a little clip to show you what it looks like on my end. It used to be instant until the box logo showed up a long while ago, you’ll see it in the video. Every since then it’s with a 2-3 second delay to open a file.

I have fast internet in both locations where I would work in that base and the behavior is consistently bad everywhere.
Bildschirmfoto 2023-12-01 um 09.57.46

The base is fairly large by now so I tried it in a tiny one, same behavior.

But you reply helps me that I at least know it shouldn’t be like that. I suppose I can try my luck and send an email to support. For now we open the files in onedrive where they exist as well. It’ll be better for an overview point anyway I suppose.

In an ideal world I have these file somehow side by side, don’t need to be large either, often a quick glance on what it is without having to read the whole thing is enough.

I must admit I haven’t spent much time up until now with document processing. I am sure there are solutions for this sort of thing, just need to find them if I can’t speed up the process of looking through them within Airtable.

Again many thanks!

Oh, that’s weird… I am now getting the same behavior as you are, and I am seeing the Box logo as well.

So, this is either new behavior that they are slowly rolling out to people, or it’s a mistake on their end. My guess is that it’s probably new behavior moving forward. The 2-3 second delay doesn’t bother me too much, but it is definitely not instant anymore.

Do you know where it is still instant? The Airtable mobile app. The mobile app still has the old instant behavior.

You may want to write about this, and let us know what they say.

Oh you are right! On the ipad it is one more click but at least the viewing is instant!
That is a good workaround and I can incorporate this into the process.
It also mimicks the actual physical paper process in a way because you use your hands to look at them :wink: so not too bad at all.
I did send them a support request. Will report back.

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Another option is Cloudinary for storage of documents, in case you still find it’s an issue. Cloudinary is top performance and it’s dirt cheap. The only thing is, you can’t see a thumbnail to click to zoom in Airtable if using Cloudinary.
I really wish Airtable provides Cloudinary integration in the same way as they do for Box or Onedrive, it really begs itself to be listed there.

One more note, depending on volume … there are quite reasonably priced document approval solutions that would work nicely with Airtable. If your documents are consistent, the document approval would check for presence of certain features in the document and pre-fill information if needed for accounting etc. There are ones that also work reasonably well with handwriting in documents too. That’s just food for thought, in case the manual process is too much.

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Forgot to mention ChatGPT Plugins is something that may be worth looking into now that the ungrateful work of looking at PDFs and checking them became less pleasant with the delay. I am looking right now into sorting 1000’s of PDF documents I have myself. I have amassed about 60,000 PDFs on computer, external drives, Google drives and Evernote and would like to sort them out. This haunted me like a dragon for all the years but it seems time has finally come.
So maybe looking into that option could allow you to make the work more bearable and have the AI to give you the answer like validating documents or capturing some details.

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Yes great points thanks! And I have been in this rabbit hole myself :slight_smile:
Looking into general document handling solutions and yesterday specifically with chatgpt. It’s fascinating but the moment you get into one thing, the next one opens… neverending rabbit hole! :wink:

Airtable sent the following info:

Thanks for reaching out about this, and helping us understand what’s going on. Based on what you’ve described this sounds like an issue that our engineering team is currently investigating.

Though we don’t have an ETA on when a fix will be in place just yet, we’ll be sure to let you know once we have some new insights, and in the meantime, please let us know if there’s anything else we can help with!

Well at least I’m not crazy and there is a problem :wink:

At least you got an answer from them saying they are investigating.

They don’t answer to me anymore. I burned my bridges with my constant complains they have me on block list already for my extreme perseverance :sob: